Back to Table of Contents for the On Course I Workshop

1. Strategy: Jigsaw

Application: Promoting team skills in an online environment

Educator: Stephani Cuddie, Director, Course Development & Update, Florida Institute of Technology, FL

Implementation: Students do the following assignment over two weeks. For Step A, I assign students to home groups of three and have each student choose to become the group’s expert on one of three online communication channels (including appropriate use): 1) Email, 2) Message Posting, and 3) Chat Room. The assignment is to discover the appropriate use and language for each of these communication channels, as well as any dangers such as technological problems or misunderstandings. As resources for learning, students can use their course text, online resources, and instructor-provided resources. In Step B, the expert groups meet in the course chat room, discuss what they have learned, and develop a plan on how they will share their ideas with their home group. In Step C, experts meet with their home groups in a chat room to share their knowledge. Each home group then posts a group document sharing what they learned about these three online communication channels.

2. Strategy: Assorted Learner-Centered and OC Structures and Strategies

Application: Any On-line courses

Educator: Jodi Reed, Faculty, Computer and Information Science, Cuyamaca College, CA

Implementation: I encourage teachers to take advantage of the unique qualities of the online environment rather than just trying to duplicate face-to-face strategies. Many teachers focus their effort on putting lectures online, a structure that isn’t particularly effective in the online environment. Online learning is particularly rich in resources and opportunities for written interaction and sharing with a wide audience.  The biggest challenge I’ve found in online environments is the difficulty in group interaction.  It’s tough to find a time for synchronous communication, and most group work benefits from the learners being together especially at the beginning stages of a team project. I have compiled some examples of online learning structures/strategies that generate enthusiasm and foster learning:

  • Project – Students create a product that they share with other students. In a Web Development class, for example, students create a web site.
  • Peer Review – Students use a form to offer feedback to 3 other students. Students could first be coached on the Feedback Sandwich from the On Course II Workshop.
  • Journal – Students create a blog to share their thoughts and experiences as they work through the course.  For example, students post short movie reviews for a cinema class.
  • Virtual Guest Speaker – Students conference with a guest speaker
  • Community Knowledge Base – Students study a small bit of a course and share a definition, explanation, example, etc.  For example, each student could take a component of an essay, explain it, and give a good and bad example. These would be posted online so others could use it and possibly even offer feedback.
  • Lecture – Brief segments (<10 minutes) work best online. Audio and compelling images are extremely helpful. Camtasia ( is a tool that can help teachers add audio to PowerPoint and produce it as a video. Jing is a free tool that lets you capture what is on your screen (images or video) and post it online without knowing anything about web publishing (
  • Consider doing things you might not do in the classroom like interview an expert or former student or show a discussion among peers.  You can also find wonderful resources online.

3. Strategy: Aha Journal

Application: Any online course

Educator: Barbara Van Syckle, Faculty, Business, Criminal Justice, and Automotive, Jackson Community College, MI

Implementation: Create an AHA Journal “Book” in an online course by setting it up in a discussion board. Reading other students’ AHAs can be a rich learning opportunity for other students. It can also serve to establish “experts” in certain areas of the course for student to seek help with questions.

4. Strategy: Tracking Form

Application: Any online course

Educator: Elizabeth Hardy, Faculty, English and Humanities, Mayland Community College, NC

Implementation: To help students manage themselves and their work more effectively, create an online form for them to track their progress. Online courses in English and Humanities frequently require many different elements each week of the course: reading, checking course announcements, formulating responses, posting responses to message boards, replying to classmates’ work, checking email, preparing major assignments and tracing quizzes or tests. By tracking when (and if) they are completing all these elements, students may see more readily their own lags, such as neglecting to do reading or missing post deadlines, as well as taking on more personal responsibility for their success. Point out this tracking form (which can be introduced via a podcast) to students when they send those how-am-I-doing emails.

5. Strategy: Jigsaw & Intrinsic Motivation

Application: Research Paper Exploration for an online course

Educator: Leigh Jonaitis, Faculty, English, Bergen Community College, NJ

Implementation: Developing a sense of community online is an important part of retaining online students. This exercise adapts the Jigsaw strategy as a way to introduce students to a research topic as well as make connections with other students. This activity takes place later in a course, so students have already been working online in their “home groups” of four. Offer four research topics (e.g., cyber-bullying, organ donations, etc.) and have each student in the home group choose one topic. Have students conduct guided online research (as in CQ Researcher) on their topic, and then they share their findings in an online discussion forum with others who are becoming experts in the same topic. Once they feel comfortable summarizing what they have found, they return to their “home groups” and report on their research. Students in the “home groups” get exposed to other research topics and have an opportunity to switch topics and expert groups if they choose (appealing to autonomy-motivated students). Students continue exchanging ideas with their expert groups as they continue research through the research paper unit.

6. Strategy: Eight Choices of Successful Students

Application: Orientation for Online Courses

Educator: Lea Ann Turner, Learning Technology Manager, Mid-West Technical College, WI

Implementation: In our online orientation course we have students create a learning plan entitled “How to Succeed in Online Learning.”  This covers time management, the role of the student, and the role of the instructor.  The Eight Choices are integrated in this way:

  1. Have students take the On Course self-assessment (found in Chapter 1 of the On Course text).
  2. Provide a brief, relevant description about each of the 8 choices.
  3. Have students use the journal or blog tool in Blackboard to write a reflection on the choices they need to improve to be successful as an online student.

7. Strategy: DAPPS Rule/Jigsaw

Application: Implementing Online Strategies and Uses of Technology in On Course Class.

Educator: Colin Stapp, Instructional Design Faculty in Distance Ed. Dept., Chemeketa Community College, OR

Implementation: Using DAPPS Rule, have students create goals & objectives and document their progress online.  Documentation could be blogs, photo essays, video or audio, or anything that helps chronicle their progress. Reports should highlight all aspects: personal, school related, highlights & challenges. The (eLearn) online component would also implement the “Jigsaw” strategy for breaking down, navigating, and using the eLearn system (1-4). Final project would be creating a wiki document sharing information with other incoming students.

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